Claims of conflict of interest stemming from his attendance at a public open house regarding Maber Flats are not problematic said current Central Saanich Councillor and Mayoral candidate Ryan Windsor this week.
Windsor attended the public open house in September regarding the District’s planned purchase of Maber Flats for a proposed drainage facility project. As Windsor owns property adjacent to the land in question, he has excused himself from all discussions and decisions by council on the matter, stating several times that he is in a conflict of interest.
This month, Councillor Alicia Cormier has called out Windsor for attending the open house and said members of the public have been asking her about a possible conflict of interest stemming from his presence at the event.
“There were some questions that were posed by community member Elizabeth Chambers at a recent meeting and there have been questions asked by others in the community as well about both the Maber Flats project and policies around conflict of interest,” Cormier said in an interview with the PNR this week.
Cormier said the questions she’s been hearing centre around the perceived “rush” on the project and how it fits into the bigger context of the District’s planned capital projects.
“I do think people feel like it’s an exciting project, even some members of the farming community feel it is good project, I think, but there are a lot of questions around the purchase price of the land and if the price is the best that it can be.”
At Monday night’s council meeting, Cormier brought forward a notice of motion that had six points, including requests for more public consultation, further investigation of the purchase price of the land and whether members of council, staff and committees have been in conflict.
“Without delay, and before a decision is made by council to acquire Maber Flats land currently under review, staff provides council with a detailed report to include a legal opinion to assess whether the actions to date by members of council, staff and the district’s advisory committees have met the district policy guidelines for advisory committees and guidelines for conflict of interest,” read the motion.
“I won’t personally support this, not necessarily because I don’t think the things in the report shouldn’t be done, but because I feel that this is the same accusation you made [of Councillor Windsor] just packaged differently,” said Councillor Carl Jensen during the meeting.
A council majority quashed Cormier’s motion. Only Cormier and Coun., Zeb King supported it.
Cormier insisted at the time she wasn’t being accusatory, but simply wanted to ensure that all guidelines were being upheld.
“Transparency and the following of the guidelines and regulations is something I hold very near and dear.
“I’m simply responding to what’s being asked of me by members of the public and what’s been asked at the council meetings by the public,” said Cormier, adding that she believes it’s in both council’s best interest and Windsor’s to seek a legal opinion on the matter.
“My feeling is that it was a meeting of council directly related to the purchase of the land and the future of the project and I don’t think he should have attended.”
Windsor said he feels his attendance at the open house was appropriate, a sentiment which was echoed by other councillors and the mayor at the last two regular council meetings.
“I feel I’ve always done the right thing and no experts that I’ve talked to have felt that my attendance at the open house was a problem,” said Windsor this week.
“The open house was an opportunity for the public, citizens and taxpayers, to get more information on the project. Every member of the public should always be able to receive information on projects that impact us.
“It is absolutely Councillor Cormier’s right and privilege to ask these questions, but from my perspective I don’t see an issue.”
Provincial disclosure of conflict laws say council members who have a conflict of interest must excuse themselves from council meetings, council committee meetings, municipal commissions, parcel tax roll review panels, boards of variance, council-established advisory bodies and bodies prescribed by regulation.
Public open houses are not listed in the disclosure of conflict laws.
The next regular meeting of council is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 3.